All posts by Paul Tchir

1956 Pakistan Olympic Field Hockey Team

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look into the Pakistani field hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games, because this case contains elements of the different types of mysteries that we face while building our tables. While most of the players are either known to be deceased, or are too young to be among the Oldest Olympians, a few are right at home on the (digital) pages of this blog.

Our original objective with this post was simply to cover a silver medal mystery that we had missed previously. Habibur Rehman, born August 15, 1925, is the only medalist on the team over 90 about whom we are uncertain as to whether or not he is still alive. In addition to his silver from 1956, he was also with the squads that finished fourth at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games. Despite these accomplishments, we have been unable to ascertain if Rehman, who would be 94, is alive or deceased.

(Aziz Malik)

We then noticed that one of the alternates on the team, Aziz Malik, was actually an Olympian in his own right. Although he did not receive a medal in 1956, because he did not actually play in any of the matches, he was a starter for Pakistan at the last two editions, in 1948 in London and 1952 in Helsinki, both times of which his country finished just off the podium in fourth. His date of birth is usually listed as April 16, 1916, although some sources have the year as 1918 instead. Regardless, we could not find any confirmation of his living status, so he is also an Olympic mystery, just not officially a medal one.

Then there was the case of another alternate, Zafar Hayat, who was a non-playing reserve not only in 1956, but also in 1960 in Rome, when Pakistan finally earned its first field hockey gold medal. It was not until 1964 in Tokyo, when Pakistan was relegated back to silver, that Hayat earned an Olympic medal officially. Two years earlier, however, he had taken gold with the national team at the 1962 Asian Games. Complicating Hayat’s case is his uncertain year of birth: while some sources list him as being born on March 31, 1927, others have him as being born in 1937. Despite the decade-long gap, neither date would be outside of the realm of possibility for his career for a field hockey player of this era, and thus we cannot be certain if he even qualifies as among the Oldest Olympians yet. Regardless, we have no information on whether or not he is still alive.

Finally, in terms of alternates, there were two other reserves on the 1956 squad about whom we know nothing: Muhammad Amin and Muhammad Nasib. We know of no other results from them in any international tournaments, and do not have even a year of birth for either; given how little attention such reserves receive, we cannot even be certain that their names are correct. Our list of “possibly living” oldest Olympians only takes into consideration Olympians without a date of birth when they competed prior to World War II, because otherwise we cannot be certain that they would have even reached the age of 90 yet. The reality is, however, that many postwar alternates would now be well over 90 if still alive, especially in a sport such a field hockey. Amin and Nasib, therefore, add to the mystery surrounding the 1956 Pakistani Olympic field hockey squad.

Thus this case study highlights the many difficulties and caveats that plague our research here at Oldest Olympians. Still, it is work that we enjoy and such mysteries keep us on our toes, so we always enjoy sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to add additional transparency and, we hope, credibility to our ultimate results.

Amit Singh Bakshi

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a gold medal mystery of a different kind. The case of Indian field hockey player Amit Singh Bakshi is one where the mystery does not come from whether or not he is alive, as we have evidence that he was still living in 2012 and have no reason to believe that he has since died. Instead, our confusion comes from not being certain exactly how old he is.

(Photograph of the 1956 Indian Olympic hockey team from

A member of New Delhi’s Services Sport Control Board, Bakshi was originally a backup player on the Indian field hockey squad that was chosen for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After teammate Gursewak Singh was declared medically unfit, however, Bakshi was moved up to a starting player. He only appeared in one of India’s five games on their way to earning their sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal, however, a 16-0 blowout of the United States in the group stage. By career, he was a commercial airline pilot.

The mystery comes from conflicting sources regarding his age. The 1956 Olympic report gives a year of 1936, while the 2012 article confirming that he was alive lists him as 87 years old, making him born in either 1924 or 1925 and suggesting that the Olympic report was not simply a typo for 1926. Due to the fact that he was not a prominent international player, no other sources provide more depth or additional clarification. He may, therefore, be one of the oldest Indian Olympians, third only to water polo player Gora Seal and triple field hockey champion Balbir Singh Sr. On the other hand, he may not even be in his mid-80s. With so much uncertainty about Indian Olympians of this era, it may be difficult to ascertain exactly when he was born, but we felt it worth noting him as an important caveat to our lists.

Wally Hayward

Some time back, when noting the death of Nigerian track athlete Karim Olowu, we here at Oldest Olympians were discussing the longest-lived African Olympians. Based on some research that we have done in the interim, we believe that the distinction of longest-lived Olympian goes to South African marathoner Wally Hayward.

Hayward, born July 10, 1908, was already an established runner in his early 20s. In 1938, he earned his most notable international prize by taking bronze in the six-mile race at that year’s British Empire Games. It was after World War II, however, that he reached the pinnacle of his career. In 1952, he was selected to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Helsinki Olympics, where he finished 10th out of 66 starters. The following year, he won his country’s 90-kilometer Comrades Marathon for the fourth of five times and set world records at 50 and 100 miles, as well as the 24-hours race. He continued racing into his 80s, not stopping for good until 1989. A marathon in South Africa was named in his honor.

By career Hayward was an engineer and he served in that capacity during World War II, winning the British Empire Medal for bravery during the conflict. He died on April 27, 2006, at the age of 97 years, 291 days, making him the longest-lived African Olympian that we know about. For the sake of comparison, the current oldest living African Olympian is Mohamed Selim Zaki, born July 16, 1924, who recently turned 95. There is nothing mysterious about Hayward, but we did want to make a brief post about him here at Oldest Olympians, not only to tie up a loose end from an earlier post, but, as always, to celebrate the achievements of a distinguished sportsman and his contributions to the Olympic movement.

Eisstockschießen (Ice Stock Sport)

Eisstockschießen in action

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a quick peek at a sport that, at least in the English-speaking world, is little known, but has twice appeared at the Games as a demonstration event: Eisstockschießen, translated into English as ice stock sport. There are two main variants of the game, but the procedure is similar to curling in both instances: sliding a rock (in this case, known as an ice stock) across the ice towards a specific goal. In target shooting, the objective is to get as close to the target as possible. In distance shooting, the objective is to throw the ice stock as far as possible. It was played as a demonstration sport at both the 1936 and 1964 Winter Olympics.

As you might imagine, our interest lies primarily in the former tournament. Given the obscurity of the sport, at least in English-speaking countries, there is not a lot of information on most of the competitors, not even dates of birth. This means that the majority of the participants are listed on our list of “possibly living alternates and demonstration event competitors”. While we have been able to eliminate a handful of them as being still living, either based on precise information that we have found or dates of previous competition that are too early for them to still be alive, the possibility that some of these players are still with us is not outside the realm of possibility. In fact, there are well over 100 of them on our list, from three different countries: Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

In terms of why we are blogging about this, there is always the importance of  broadening the search for obscure information so that we may be able to find somehow who can help cross off a few names. There are, for example, some Olympic missing links. The website for Eisstock-Club Bad Reichenhall, for example, lists a Kaspar Knoll as being born on June 11, 1920 and dying on May 5, 2007. A Kaspar Knoll also participated in the 1936 Games for the same club, and while this might seem a bit young for an Olympian, the age range for this sport is quite large, just as it is in curling. On the other end of the age scale, the Olympian Matthäus Maucher might be this man, who died in 1957, both of whom have connections to Oberstdorf. We cannot even be certain of the spelling of names; a Helmut Müller-Leuthert supposedly participated in 1936 with Gießener Eisverein. Is he actually Helmut Müller-Leutert, an artist who was born and died in Giessen and lived from September 15, 1892 to December 5, 1973, who otherwise has no known connection to the sport?

More importantly, however, we wanted to shed some light on this obscure piece of Olympic history to remind our readers that there is nothing that we take for granted. It might seem unnecessary to keep track of demonstration sport competitors who are almost certainly deceased, but we find it important to perform our due diligence in this regard and stand behind the accuracy of our data. An individual’s contribution to the Olympic movement, no matter how small, is always worth noting, particularly if they are a living link to an almost forgotten past.

Japan’s Oldest Olympians

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look at Japan. Despite having a reputation as a country for longevity, as well as a lengthy and prolific history at the Olympics, we have been able to identify only one definite centenarian among their Olympians: Seibo Kitamura, an art competitor at the 1932 Los Angles Games. We wanted, therefore, to take a closer look at some of Japan’s oldest Olympians.

(Uto, pictured on the right, on the Olympic podium)

The first case that might come to mind is that of Shunpei Uto, born December 1, 1918, who won two swimming medals for Japan at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the 400 metres freestyle he took silver, while in the 1500 metres freestyle he earned bronze. Until recently, we listed him as not only among our oldest Olympians, but also as Japan’s first centenarian Olympian in a physical sport. Unfortunately, however, we learned from journalist Ayako Oikawa, who undertook much research on this subject, that Uto had actually died several years ago, sometime in the 2010s, and never reached the age of 100.

(Shibata, pictured on the left, at a ceremony of the Olympians Association of Japan)

Once we learned this, our next idea was to see if anyone had been named as Japan’s oldest Olympian recently. While this distinction can sometimes be misapplied, it is often an excellent departure point for further research. The last title-holder that we were able to find, however, was from back in 2006, when the media covered Umetaro Shibata, a rower who took part in the coxed fours event at the 1932 Los Angles Games. His age varied across several reports, and we do not have even a year of birth for him in our database, but he was born c. 1909 and was in his mid-to-late 90s at the time. We could not find any updates beyond 2006 and, while he is certainly deceased by now, it remains an open question as to whether or not he reached the age of 100.

Finally, we come to our latest candidate, track athlete Etsuko Komiya, who represented Japan in the 100 metres event at the 1936 Berlin Games. Komiya was born on October 27, 1919 and would therefore have turned 100 recently if still alive, but unfortunately the last update we have on her is from 2012. With no evidence of her death, we have listed her tentatively as alive, but she will be removed from our lists on her 101st birthday if there are no further updates.

Unless and until Komiya is confirmed as having reached the age of 100, therefore, Seibo Kitamura, born December 16, 1884, will remain Japan’s lone centenarian Olympian. Kitamura, who took part in the sculpture contest at the 1932 Los Angles Games, is best known as the creator of the Peace Statue in Nagasaki’s Peace Park, a commemoration of the 1945 atomic bombing of that city during World War II. He died on March 4, 1987, at the age of 102 years, 78 days.

Finally, we wanted to end with two updates to previous cases. Thanks to his children, we have been able to confirm that the Morgan Plumb whom we profiled earlier this year was indeed the Canadian Olympic wrestler. We also want to thank Sven Buren, who found an article confirming that French bronze medal-winning cyclist Claude Rouer was still alive in 2017 and therefore among the oldest living Olympians. We are always grateful to those who take the time out to help us solve Olympic mysteries!

More Medal Mysteries

Over the last few weeks, Oldest Olympians has been taking a look at Olympic missing links. One of them, South African boxer Dries Nieman, was also a medal mystery, as he took bronze in the heavyweight tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Continuing on that theme, we wanted to look into two Olympians who would have recently turned 90 if they were still living, but for whom we could not find any evidence of their being alive recently.

(Rouer, pictured at Cycling Archives)

Claude Rouer – Bronze medalist for France in the team road race at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Claude Rouer, born October 25, 1929, reached the pinnacle of his cycling career at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in the team road race with the French squad. Individually, he had been 23rd and, at the national level, he had been the runner-up in the road race that same year, behind his Olympic compatriot Jacques Anquetil. From 1953 through 1955 he was a professional rider, and in his first year earned the lanterne rouge as the final finisher of that the Tour de France. Despite the notoriety that these achievements brought, we have been unable to find much information about his post-racing life, and thus do not know whether or not he is alive.

Jim Hill – Silver medalist for the United States in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Jim Hill, born October 30, 1929, was even more prominent in the sporting world. Hill’s only Olympic appearance came at the 1960 Rome Games, where he took silver in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition and was 24th in the same event at three positions. He was even more successful at the 1962 World Championships, where he won silver in the team prone event, bronze individually, and bronze in the team kneeling competition. A member of the United States Marine Corps, he also earned several national distinctions, and thus we believe our difficulty in determining whether or not he is still alive stems from the commonality of his name, rather than an actual dearth of information on him. We believe, therefore, that he is most likely still alive, but we cannot prove it.

Yet More Olympic Links Part III

Today we conclude the series that we revived two weeks ago by once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

(Grave of a Kurt Bryner born in 1916 who died in 1984 from Find-A-Grave)

Kurt Bryner – Member of Switzerland’s sailing delegations to the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics

Kurt Bryner, born October 9, 1916, twice represented Switzerland in Star class sailing at the Olympics, both times with his brother Hans. In 1948 they were 15th among 17 teams, while in 1952 they came in 9th in a larger field of 21. Like many sailors, this is the extent of our knowledge on his career, but we do know that his brother died in Milano in the 2000s. We located the record of a grave in Cape Verde for a Kurt Bryner, born 1916, who died in 1984. Given that his brother left Switzerland later in life, there is no reason not to suspect that this may be a marker for the Olympian but, unfortunately, we do not have enough proof to make that conclusion.

Hermann Dür – Member of Switzerland’s equestrian delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

Active in the 1970s, Hermann Dür, born June 23, 1925, represented Switzerland in the dressage tournament at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he came in 7th with the national team and 21st individually. The following year, he was a bronze medalist in the team dressage at the European Championships, and he then earned another bronze medal in that event at the 1974 World Championships. Our research located a man with the same name and birth year who died in 2015, but unfortunately there were no additional details to corroborate a claim that this man was the Olympian.

Dries Nieman – Bronze medalist for South Africa in heavyweight boxing at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Dries Nieman, born September 11, 1927, won a bronze medal for South Africa in heavyweight boxing at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, after losing in the semifinals to upcoming champion Ed Sanders. He turned professional after the Games and had some success, although few bouts, over the next four years. On November 10, 1956, he fought Johnny Arthur, the 1948 Olympic bronze medalist, for the South African Heavyweight Title, but lost and then retired with a record of 8-2-0. Several Wikipedia articles have him dying on August 13, 2009, but we believe that this may be based on a report of an Andries Nieman born August 12, 1927 who died on that date. Regardless, we have no evidence of the Olympian being alive in recent years, which makes Nieman both an Olympic missing link and a bronze medal mystery.

(Laurent Bernier pictured in his obituary)

Finally, we like to end with a story that has been resolved if we can, and today we have one. We previously covered Laurent Bernier, a ski jumper who represented Canada at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, suggesting that he had possibly died on April 27, 1998. This, however, was based on the idea that he was born December 22, 1928, and it turns out that he was actually born in 1921. This in turn led to an obituary that demonstrated that he had in fact died August 13, 2007, making it the first mystery that we have featured that was resolved in a different fashion than presented. That’s all we have for today, but we hope that you will join us next week as we bring you more Olympic mysteries!

Yet More Missing Olympic Links, Part II

Continuing the series that we revived last week, today Oldest Olympians is once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

Julían Velásquez – Member of Argentina’s fencing delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Julían Velásquez, born December 7, 1920, was a member of Argentina’s sabre fencing team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which was eliminated in round one of the tournament. He had better luck at the 1963 Pan American Games, where he took home a silver medal with the sabre team. This is the extent of what we know about him, but a user on Wikipedia added a date of death of November 12, 2010 and a place of death of Buenos Aires to his article. Unfortunately, we have been unable to confirm this in other sources.

Herman Kunnen – Member of Belgium’s track and field delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Herman Kunnen, born March 28, 1925, was a three-time Belgian national champion in the 400 metres, from 1946 through 1948. During that time, he was sixth in that event at the 1946 European Championships and did not reach the final at the 1948 London Olympics. He was also sixth in the 4×100 metres at the 1946 Europeans. As with the Velásquez, our only clue about his later life comes from a Wikipedia user, who claimed that Kunnen died in August 2001 in Gent, but we have been unable to find additional evidence to back this up.

Masood Ahmed – Member of Pakistan’s field hockey squad at the 1948 London Olympics

One thing that can be said for certain about Masood Ahmed, born June 1918, is that he represented Pakistan in its fourth-place finish in the field hockey tournament at the 1948 London Olympics. Other information about him is difficult to ascertain, as his name is seen as both Masood Mirza Ahmed and Masood Ahmed Khan, and thus it is possible that two individuals are being conflated in our search for more information. One anonymous Wikipedia user, however, asserted that the Olympian in question died January 19, 2003, but unfortunately this has proven impossible for us to verify.

That is it for today, but we will continue this series next week as we explore even more Olympic Mysteries that we have uncovered. We hope that you will join us!

Yet More Olympic Missing Links

We here at Oldest Olympians have been doing much research as of late, and we have come up with a handful of new names for our Olympic Missing Links series. Thus, today we are once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

(An obituary for Humberto Del Valle Aspitia)

Humberto Aspitia – Member of Argentina’s shooting delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Humberto D. V. Aspitia, born December 12, 1928, represented Argentina in the 50 metres pistol event at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where he was 41st among 52 competitors. Three years later he competed at the same event at the Pan American Games, but just missed the podium by coming in fourth. This is all we know about him, and our only clue to his later life comes in the form of an obituary for a Humberto Del Valle Aspitia who died July 11, 2003. Unfortunately, without the obituary mentioning any additional details about his life, or even the age at which he died, we cannot confirm that this is the Olympian, even though it seems likely.

(An obituary for John F K Hinde)

John Hinde – Member of Great Britain’s coxed eights squad at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

John Hinde, born October 3, 1928, was a member of two of Great Britain’s coxed eights squads. In 1952 in Helsinki, he just missed the podium in fourth, while in 1956 in Melbourne Britain was eliminated in the round one repêchage. He had more success at the 1951 World Championships, however, where he won a gold medal in the eights. We would have assumed that, given the stature of rowing in England, his death would have merited a noticeable obituary. Unfortunately, all we have been able to locate is a notice of a death for a man with his initials and age, but there are no details to connect him conclusively to the Olympian.

(An obituary for Pierre Brétéché)

Pierre Brétéché – Member of France’s 5.5 metres class sailing entry at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

Pierre Brétéché, born July 2, 1928, represented France in the 5.5 metres class competition at the 1968 Mexico City Games, where he finished 10th out of 14 nations. Like many Olympic sailors, this is all we know about him and, like our other entries today, our only clue to his fate comes from a brief obituary we found online. It lists a Pierre Brétéché as having died in March 2017 at the age of 88, which would be correct for the athlete. Unfortunately, without more information, we cannot be sure that this is the Olympian.

(Cover of a skiing guide to which Otto Beyeler contributed)

Otto Beyeler – Member of Switzerland’s cross-country skiing delegation to the 1952 Oslo Olympics

Otto Beyeler, born July 21, 1926, was a relatively well-known figure on Switzerland’s ski scene, but represented his country only once at the Olympics. At the 1952 Oslo Games, he came in 15th out of 36 competitors in the 50 km event, the highest placement for the four Swiss participants. As with the rest of today’s missing links, we came across an obituary with too few details to indicate that its subject was the Olympian. It simply lists an Otto Beyeler, born 1926, as having died on January 30, 2016 in Rothrist, with nothing that could identify him for certain as the Olympian.

We have a few more names to cover but, in order to prevent this post from going on too long, we have decided to discuss the rest next week. In the meantime, we wanted to end on a more positive note: an anonymous user on Wikipedia was able to point us to a post from a relative of Chilean basketball player Eduardo Cordero, featured previously on Olympic Missing Links, confirming that Cordero died in September 1991. We want to convey our thanks to that user for helping us solve another Olympic mystery!

Jackie LaVine

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover an Olympian who we believe to be alive, but whose situation requires a little more than the cursory overview than we normally give to our Olympians of the Day. This will, consequently, be a short post, as well as a mystery that will probably be easily and quickly resolved but, as always, we are committed to transparency in both our research and our claims.

The subject of our inquiry is American swimmer Jackie LaVine, born October 4, 1929, whom we believe to have turned 90 recently. LaVine was first slated to represent the United States in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay at the 1948 London Olympics, but she remained an unused reserve in the team’s gold-medal victory. On her way to the 1952 Helsinki Games, she won five national titles, a gold medal in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay at the 1951 Pan American Games, and silver in the 100 metres freestyle at the same tournament. In Helsinki, she helped the Americans take home bronze in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay.

(Mention of Jackie LaVine’s marriage from the June 13, 1957 edition of the Muncie, Indiana Star Press)

LaVine continued her swimming career for a short time after earning her medal, but soon disappeared from the newspapers. The only trace of her were able to uncover was a brief mention in the Muncie, Indiana Star Press that she had married a handball player by the name of Philip Collins. This allowed us to discover that she was listed in American public records as having lived in Chicago, Illinois from August 1, 1993 through January 1, 2009 as Jacqueline Collins. A last update in 2009 is just on the edge of the range of when we would list someone as living on our tables.

Unfortunately, even this mention is not guaranteed to be entirely accurate, as many individuals are listed as having “resided” in their last place of residence in public records for years after their death. Regardless, even with a “last known living” date of 2009, she would be slated for removal from our lists at the end of 2020 if there were to be no further update. This, therefore, is why we have turned to the Olympic Mysteries blog to reach out to our readers, as we find it likely that someone out there could solve this case rather easily. Unfortunately, names like Jacqueline, and especially Phil, Collins make it difficult for standard Google, and even broader public record, searches to be useful. At the very least, however, we hope that we have done our job of highlighting one of the oldest Olympians and bringing more clarity and nuance to the results that we produce.